August 4, 2016 by Dadinator
The word sticks out at me on the report, “atypical”. It’s not a loaded word. Not like “behind” or “under-developed” or “challenged”. It’s a pretty harmless and neutral word pointing out that some facet is not quite what you’d expect, that it was not quite the same as it is in most people. It’s a word that doesn’t point to someone being “low” in some way, just different.
And it’s a word that appeared a few times recently on a report We were handed.
Doubts and doubting them.
We watched him with doting eyes. We love him so much, and he is such a gorgeous boy. But still there were doubts. You know the ones, those whispers we all get in our heads that keep you up at night, but which you squash down during the day.
Are you SURE this is okay?
Is he different to other kids?
Is this normal?
Is something wrong?
It was a niggle that grew as he got older. His temper would flare up. He would get into a zone and ignore everything else around him. He would cling to things. He rubbed surfaces, was too loud at the wrong time. He still sucked his thumb….. Niggle niggle niggle….
Alongside it there persisted that guilt…
Did I do screw him up.?
Have I been too strict?
Not strict enough?
Why can’t I seem to help my child?
But that’s not enough. You doubt your child. You doubt yourself. Then…. you doubt your doubts.
Why can’t I just love him and accept him?
Am I reading too much into this?
Does he know I feel this way?
Oh god, he knows i’m worrying, doesn’t he? Is that the problem?
And it persists, and in spite of your own dismissals, quashings of that inner voice and self-rebukes, you act.Because somewhere between instinct and paranoia there is room for reason, and because you know your child. You surrender.
You seek help.
Referral roulette. Referrals from GPs to hospitals. From hospitals to pediatricians. From pediatricians to psychologist and family support workers, even a dose of parenting classes. We spent sessions talking to a family therapist, putting ourselves under the microscope, reading our children’s behaviour in relation to their needs rather than as something they inflicted on us.
Then came the Occupational Therapist. I never really knew what they were or what they did. I assumed they did stuff with ergonomics, they were about workplace injuries or something. Sounded right. But as I’ve learned in the past year they do a lot more, and that parents of children with a raft of different extra needs spend a lot of time with them.
And now our son does.
He’s atypical. Well parts of his sensory profile are atypical. He has certain receptive issues, certain sensitivities which once upon a time would have just been called being “odd”. Once upon a time they would have needed “straightening out”. But we’re not once upon a time, we are now. And now we use that word “atypical”.
Well… we’re all atypical I’m sure, a perfectly typical person is probably pretty rare, but it bears more weight when it is found in a piece of paper from an OT. The Lad had been working with one at the local hospital, and working with The Mamanator and his kindergarten teacher they built up a sensory profile.
And he was atypical in a number of areas, meaning he has trouble “filtering” his senses. I know there’s more to it than that, but that’s probably the simplest way of putting it. It also means that he sometimes seeks certain kinds of sensory stimulation, he rubs my arm, he sucks his thumb, he rocks or sways, he has trouble standing still. Sometimes he gets caught up in what he’s doing and it’s like he doesn’t hear you when you call.
A lot of that is typical. But added together, perhaps, it becomes atypical. I don’t now how this all works. The brain processes a lot of information, and some of it just gets caught up. There’s a lot about the brain we don’t know. But I know my son.
I know he sometimes hears the noise I make, but sometimes he doesn’t hear me. I know that he nudges me like a cat, pushing against my arm with his face. I know he jumps about and has trouble sitting still for too long. I know he’s a clever, bright and vivacious boy with an active imagination, a kind soul and a sensitive heart. I know we have to consider whether he needs to stay in kinder for another year next year, and it will be a decision that we’ll lose sleep over. I know I’ll blink, 10 years will pass and this will probably all mean nothing.
I love him. I’m learning more about him as he grows. We’re finding ways to help and support him as he grows. The help is helping, we’re learning how to be a bit more atypical ourselves.